Thu, 20 Feb 2020
SEVEN Barrows trainer Nicky Henderson believes Altior is fully prepared to defend his Queen Mother Champion Chase crown at the Cheltenham Festival.
The iconic four-day meeting kicks off on March 10 and the trainer will have a strong team heading to Cheltenham next month.
Speaking at his stables in Lambourn, Henderson admitted that his stable star is finding form again ahead of the festival.
He said: “All is going well with Altior. He has been ticking over since Newbury and will have a couple of schools before Cheltenham.
“I seldom school him, but I think he just enjoys it.
“If we take Newbury as Altior’s first run of the season, which you have to really, it was perfect.
“If you were coming into the Tingle Creek or something on the back of that, you would say we are absolutely spot-on.”
Altior is aiming for a third successive victory in the £400,000 G1 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase over two miles, a feat achieved only once before, by Badsworth Boy in 1983, 1984, 1985.
The 10-year-old tasted his first defeat over obstacles when stepped up in trip to two miles and five furlongs in the G2 1965 Chase at Ascot in November, but bounced back with a dominant victory back at two miles in the G2 Game Spirit Chase at Newbury earlier this month.
“It looks a seriously good Champion Chase and should be a big battle,” said Henderson. “Altior is certainly fresh and well now and the better the ground, the better he will be.
“I suspect Defi Du Seuil and Chacun Pour Soi probably handle softer ground better than we do, although Altior has won on soft ground.
“You saw at Newbury how Altior can change gear. You have to ask the question and once Nico [de Boinville, jockey] did, he answered very quickly.”
Altior is unbeaten in four starts at the Festival, having also captured the G1 Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2016 and the G1 Racing Post Arkle Novices’ Chase in 2017.